Day Two IFF Boston: Children of Invention and The Missing Person

Children of Invention

Children of Invention is a surprising film about a hard-working, impassioned mother. At the beginning of the film, we watch as Elaine, a divorced mother from Hong Kong, who no longer can afford the mortgage on her house moves out while the police watch. There’s that tense edge as when someone gets laid off from work and must be escorted off the premises by security. Since she and her two children are moving to a small apartment, they cannot take their couch with them. As they drive off, one of the lasting powerful images of the film is the couch and tons of bottles of discarded vitamins (Elaine had tried her hand at selling blue algae).

Though we see Elaine studying through a Real Estate broker’s exam book, she wants a quick money fix and keeps calling advertisements for marketing and sales that do not seem all that solid. Out of desperation for quick money to jump start her life, Elaine becomes involved in a pyramid scheme. Natively she works 16-hour days, paying little attention to the needs of her two children. Though she makes questionable decisions, Elaine remains strong and determined to belong, succeed and make life for her two children easier than it is for her. Elaine worked while her ex-husband earned his engineering degree and then after the divorce he returned to Hong Kong.

One night when Elaine fails to return home from her job, Elaine’s two children, Raymond and Tina, must fend for themselves. This takes them out to Boston with a plan based on Raymond’s quirky inventions. The result is sweet, moving and a slice of familial bonding. Written and directed by Boston native Tze Chun and loosely based on aspects of his own childhood, Children of Invention poignantly and creatively bridges traditional Asian culture with United States desires and prosperity.

Grade: A-

The Missing Person

I’m in the hide and seek business.
That’s for kids.
If you add some money to it, it’s for adults.

Quirky noir starring Michael Shannon [Revolutionary Road] as alcoholic private investigator John Roscow gets a case to follow a guy with few other instructions. He almost too low key and too mellow but sometimes it works to his benefit under the circumstances. Amy Ryan [Gone Baby Gone] plays the assistant to the man who has hired the PI. Ryan and Shannon have a sardonic relationship that fits the film and its ending.So we ask, as he does, who is this guy? What is important? What is he doing? He seems suspicious because he’s traveling with a young Mexican boy. Roscow sets out after him and doesn’t find out very much about the guy. So then what is the deal? Roscow is an odd one and you just know more layers will be revealed. The entire film I wondered why the title was The Missing Person until both men are connected in some way to 9/11. The Missing Person is an amusing old-fashioned style gumshoe film with an intriguing secret that reveals itself toward the end.

Grade: B-

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